January 2019 Giving and Growing

Mark and Paige Welch and son Jack show some of the many Band-Aids collected through their Band-Aids for Batson campaign. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Cooley Photography)
Mark and Paige Welch and son Jack show some of the many Band-Aids collected through their Band-Aids for Batson campaign. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Cooley Photography)
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Our patients: Welch experiences Children’s Hospital as patient, parent

Published on Friday, January 18, 2019

When Paige Staggs Welch volunteers to help Children’s of Mississippi, she’s helping a place she credits with saving her life and giving a healthy start to her son.

“Anything I can do to help Batson Children's, I try my hardest to be there, even if it’s driving two hours out of my way to do it,” said the Vidalia,Louisiana, resident during the 2017 Sanderson Farms Championship.

Welch, 28, first came to Batson Children’s Hospital at 15 after waking up one day unable to walk.

“My mom took me to our family doctor in Natchez,” she said, “and he did some scans. He said, ‘You need to get to Batson as fast as you can.’”

Once her family arrived at the state’s only children’s hospital, “within 10 minutes they had us in a room and were starting scans immediately.”

A 13-inch tumor was found on Welch’s spine, and emergency surgery was needed to keep her from being


Paige with her doctor and social worker.

Paige, about 16 and undergoing cancer treatments, smiles with LeAnne Howard, a social worker at Batson, and Dr. Suvankar Majumdar, who was a hematologist and oncologist at UMMC then.

“About five days later, I was still at the hospital, and they told me it was Burkitt’s lymphoma, and it’s stage 4,” she said. “I had about a 70 percent chance of having less than two weeks to live unless I underwent chemo.

“I was two weeks shy of my 16th birthday.”

Welch may have been a teenager, but she soon was fighting cancer like a warrior. “I did eight rounds of very strong chemo,” she said. “They gave me adult doses because my cancer was so aggressive that it could triple in size overnight, so they had to fight it like that.”

Young cancer patients can be tempted to throw a pity party after diagnosis, said Dr. Gail Megason, Welch’s oncologist and former director of the Children’s Cancer Center, “but there was none of that ‘poor, pitiful me’ business from her. She dealt with everything she had to go through to get well.”

Welch fought, and she won. Each year she is cancer free, she poses for a photo in front of the Children’s Cancer Center at Batson Children’s Hospital, holding up a sign showing the number of years since her recovery.

Since her initial visit to Batson Children’s Hospital, Welch graduated from Northwestern State University of Louisiana in 2009, earning her associate’s degree. She married Mark Welch in 2015.

In her 11th anniversary “cancer free” photo, Paige was pregnant with her son, Jack.

“He is our miracle child,” she said. “One of the possible side effects of my chemo was that I might not have been able to have children, but God blessed us with a wonderful little boy. He will be 2 in May, and he is so, so, so active. Jack loves to swim, play with his cousins and eat! He is going to be a big brother in April and is already talking so much about ‘baby.’”

Having been a Batson patient, Welch felt confident in the care her son would receive there when, as an infant, he was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia.

“I have always said that if I have a child and they needed medical care,” Paige said. “I know exactly where I’m taking them.”

Her son’s pediatrician recommended surgery. “She said, ‘Where do you want to go?’ I said, ‘Batson.’ She said, ‘You didn’t even hear about the other places.’ I said, ‘We’re going to Batson.’”

Looking to the future, the Welch family plans to keep supporting Children’s during the construction of the seven-story pediatric expansion adjacent to Batson Children’s Hospital.

“Batson means the world to me. Every one of our doctors and
nurses is like family,” she said. “Without this hospital, I wouldn’t be here.

“Batson gave me my life back.”